Two traveller sites in Leicester given go-ahead as opponents vow to fight decision
Campaigners have reacted furiously to an announcement that plans for two permanent travellers' sites have been given the go-ahead by the city council.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby yesterday confirmed plans for one site of up to 10 pitches at Red Hill Way, Mowmacre Hill, and another of up to six pitches at Greengate Lane, Beaumont Leys.
Work on the project, which will cost more than £1.5 million, could start before the end of the year, subject to planning permission being granted.
Protestors – who were among thousands of people to oppose the plans – have vowed to keep fighting the decision, describing the move as "very sad for democracy".
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Sir Peter said it was "a very hard decision which was never going to be popular".
The total number of pitches at the sites has been reduced from 30 to 16. However, the council needs to find space for 40 pitches in total.
One site which had previously been considered, at Beaumont Way, in Beaumont Leys, was ruled out as unsuitable.
However, Sir Peter said two additional sites – at Hoods Close, Mowmacre Hill, and Ratby Lane, Braunstone Frith – were now being considered.
"This is a start," he said. "We need to find 40 pitches, so this is not a solution.
"We've looked long and hard at the issues people have raised. We've agreed to limit the size of the Greengate Lane site to minimise the impact on nearby residents.
"We're also not planning to allow these sites to expand beyond the planned number of pitches.
"Over the next three months, I want further discussions with the county and district councils to ensure they are playing their part, as well as looking again at the potential offered by privately-owned sites across the city which might be capable of providing small developments.
"I also want members of the travelling community to be involved in discussions about how they could help develop and manage sites."
The Red Hill Way, Greengate Lane and Beaumont Way sites were put forward as part of an extensive consultation early last year.
Yesterday, Sir Peter ruled out the Beaumont Way site, saying it was too exposed and road access was inadequate.
Planning applications are expected to be submitted for the Greengate Lane and Red Hill Way sites by the spring.
The public consultation on the plans ran from February to July last year. More than 1,500 people gave their views online, by letter or by e-mail, in addition to the hundreds of people who attended public meetings on the proposals.
Thousands also signed petitions opposing the plans.
Campaigner Roy Rollings, chairman of the LE4 Action Group, claimed residents had been ignored.
"This is a very sad day for democracy," he said.
"The reasonable objections of thousands of people have been ignored. We shall be opposing the sites when the applications are brought forward.
"There are very serious traffic risks affecting both sites. They are also on greenfield sites and we believe brownfield sites in Leicester should be developed first."
Birstall parish councillor Stuart Jones, who lives near the Greengate Lane site, said: "Birstall Parish Council is very disappointed with this decision. It believes that the original objections on the Greengate Lane site are still valid."
MP Stephen Dorrell, who represents the Birstall area, said he was "very disappointed at Sir Peter's cynical decision".
He said: "This decision rides roughshod over the opinions of the vast majority of people who will be directly affected by these proposals. They are my constituents, rather than voters in Leicester."
The city council initially considered 350 potential sites, which were assessed and narrowed down to three.
City council officers are now working on designs for the two sites that have been chosen.
A council spokesman said: "Our work so far has indicated the cost of a pitch can range between about £60,000 and £100,000, depending on the extent of work involved, the facilities needed and the numbers being provided on site."
A spokesman for County Hall said: "The provision of travellers' sites is the responsibility of district councils, but we'd be prepared to talk to the city mayor on the subject should he wish to approach us."